Nick Perring, one of the South Devon Railway’s (SDR) longest standing volunteers, has died suddenly.

Nick, aged 62, passed away at Torbay Hospital last Tuesday, August 30, after suffering a stroke. He died with his family and friends gathered at his bedside.

In tribute, last week a floral wreath adorned one of the engines of the popular tourist attraction he loved so much.

Ernest Elsworth-Wilson, the SDR general manager, said: ‘The amount of messages of support to his family has very clearly shown just how well liked and respected Nick was.’

Nick was involved with the SDR from the 1970s, and was probably best known for leading the Signal and Telegraph department. He was instrumental in the installation of much of the signalling now seen on the SDR, as well as maintaining it and dealing with any faults.

A railwayman through and through, his ‘proper’ career was on the mainline – working for British Rail and subsequent companies in various signalling and telegraphing roles.

He eventually led a team of mechanical locking fitters based at Exeter Central with Network Rail until his retirement in June 2017, and was responsible for maintaining much of the remaining mechanical signalling infrastructure in the UK.

Nick was also a long-serving driver and signalman on the SDR. He passed for firing in 1991, signalling at Buckfastleigh in 1993, and steam driving in 1995.

He was one of the SDR’s first firemen after operations had been taken over from the Dart Valley Railway, and a very early volunteer driver too.

His footplate career goes back earlier than this as he carried out some firing in Dart Valley days, being one of a few who worked on the footplate onto the mainline at Totnes when DVR services used the mainline station before Totnes Riverside was built.

Ernest said: ‘Nick was always happy to get involved and help out across the railway.

‘He could work all of the signal boxes on the SDR, along with driving steam and most of the SDR’s diesel fleet.’

Outside of the SDR, Nick was an avid Plymouth Argyle supporter, regularly travelling to see home and away games and support the football team of his home city. He also loved all things railways and could often be found travelling on other heritage railways or on rail tours and loco-hauled services on the mainline, in particular anywhere a ‘Peak’ diesel locomotive (Class 44, 45 and 46) was in use, these locos being particular favourites of his.

Ernest added: ‘The SDR was certainly a large part of Nick’s life, however even more so Nick was a large part of the SDR, and we are indebted to him for his commitment, skill and loyalty, always being willing to help out at short notice with great ability, be it covering a driving or signalling turn, or fixing a signalling fault so that trains could carry on running safely.

‘Nick also trained many others, helping to bring in many future generations of volunteers, both young and old, to the SDR.

‘Full of patience, passion and encouragement, there are many of us who owe Nick a great deal of thanks for nurturing us and giving us the skills to operate and maintain the SDR for the future.

‘Well liked and well loved, there are a lot of people who will miss him greatly. I am sure that everyone on the SDR will be thinking of Nick, his family and his friends at this time.’

Nick leaves behind his wife Wendy, whom he married in 2017, the pair enjoyed afternoon tea aboard their very own steam train, his three daughters, his brother Iain, his five grandchildren and many others in his extended family and an even larger group of friends.